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Thanksgiving Day in the United States of America is a time that we stop to acknowledge our gratitude for the blessings that fill our lives. We know it to be a time of family gatherings, the Macy’s Parade, holiday meals, airport delays...and for many of us, an afternoon of watching football games. No-one’s life is perfect, and we don’t wear “rose colored glasses” at Thanksgiving as if our lives are perfect. Far from it! This unique holiday is about giving thanks for what we have – instead of focusing on what we don't have. It’s not about what we have been given in life, but rather, what we have worked hard to achieve. It’s not so much about giving thanks for what happened umpteen years ago, but instead, being grateful for where we are today! Having said that, there are remarkable lessons in history that are worth re-visiting.
Most of us probably remember being elementary school age, and learning about that amazing event that we celebrate in November: Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. I remember my teacher being enthusiastic as she asked us "Isn't sharing wonderful?"
Only later in life, of course, did I realize that we missed the whole point of that first thanksgiving. According to history, it was because of sharing, that the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn't happen. Let's go back and look at the story.
When Pilgrims first settled the Plymouth Colony, they organized their farm economy along communal lines. They wanted to share everything equally, but in truth, they nearly all starved.
Why? Human nature states that if we can get something for nothing, or work hard and get the same thing, we will generally take the something for nothing.
History shows that many Plymouth settlers faked being sick, rather than putting in their share of time to work the crops in the fields. The amount of food grown was not enough to support the population, and they had a major food shortage. Despite their Puritan convictions, some stole from others to support their needs. To survive, they were forced to eat domestic and farm animals for two years.
These words are from the diary of Gov. William Bradford: "So as it well appeared that famine must still ensue the next year also, if not some way prevented, began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length after much debate of things, (with the advice of the chief among them) gave way that they should set corn, every man for his own particular...and so assigned to every family a parcel of land."
The hard work of the pilgrims was followed by a very positive outcome: "This had very good success," Bradford wrote, "for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. ... By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many... "
The results were dramatic. The community pulled together, and their intense efforts paid off. Only because of the changes they made, was the first Thanksgiving held in November 1623.
May God bless us as we give thanks this year!
~Pastor JReturn To Pastor's Page